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Suppose you are under the gun to get your strategic planning done before the end of the year and time is running out quickly.

The problem is you have delayed strategic planning, the holidays are creeping up, your team is in multiple locations, and there’s no budget or time left to get everyone together. And even IF you did get everyone together, you know the meeting won’t be as innovative and productive as you need to be more successful next year.

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions?

One possibility for answering your nagging strategic planning questions is shutting the door and trying to sketch out next year’s plan all by yourself.

Unfortunately, that’s a crappy answer.

Your team won’t feel involved or have deep buy-in (with good reason) and chances are the plan will be either too incremental (because you’re just trying to slide by) or overly aggressive (because it lacks multiple, realistic perspectives from your team).

What’s an Answer to Your Strategic Planning Questions that Will Work?

So, would you prefer a positive, productive answer to your strategic planning challenge? One that can even make planning interactive, productive, and enjoyable?

If that sounds like what you need to get your planning completed, let us facilitate your strategic planning ONLINE in a Zoomference.

You’re likely asking, “What’s a Zoomference?”

A Zoomference is where we invite your team to address your important opportunities and challenges inside a collaborative, facilitated Brainzooming session that takes place online.

A Zoomference is not just any online hangout where people chat and bounce ideas around.

During a Zoomference, The Brainzooming Group uses its incredibly efficient and engaging strategic planning approach to your bring your team together in one place online. We’ll work with you through the fundamental steps you need for a collaborative plan. In the process, you will see stronger interaction and strategic understanding among your team because of the engaging, stimulating experience. And it will take place in less time than you’d ever imagine possible.

We’ve been using Zoomferences with clients for several years. Amazingly, they can be even more productive and thorough than getting everyone together in one physical location.

How is THAT possible?

Because the online environment lets everyone participate simultaneously, contributing planning ideas. They can also group, rank, and prioritize the group’s strategies so ideas turn into strategic impact with a solid plan.

141116-Zoomference

How do you get started?

Email (info@brainzooming.com) or call us at 816-509-5320 to schedule time to learn how The Brainzooming Group can create a Zoomference to help you address your strategic planning questions and complete your plan for next year while there’s still time.

Trust us; it’s not too late – if you take that first step NOW! – Mike Brown

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This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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The latest social media “strategy” to land off the mark, be co-opted by the crowd, and subsequently crashed into the ground comes via Bill Cosby.

As Internet reports recount, a meme creator was installed on the Bill Cosby website. Using the meme creator, visitors could combine classic reaction photos of the comedian coupled with the visitor’s own funny / pithy / scathing / inflammatory copy to create a shareable meme.

Within a short time, the tone of the user-generated memes turned scathing and inflammatory as the crowd started creating memes directly centered on long-standing rape allegations against Bill Cosby.

To deal with the meme debacle, the meme creator was removed, and the Cosby camp tried to eliminate evidence that the whole thing ever happened.

This joins a string of examples and brand lessons where a brand, as part of its social media strategy, decided some type of user-generated content would be great to promote the brand because all user-generated content for big brands goes viral on social media (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s what many brands seem to believe).

Exploring the Downside of Social Media Strategy with User-Generated Content

In case your brand (or an agency that does not know any better) is thinking about a comparable social media strategy resting on giving your brand’s fans the venue, the means, and/or the opportunity to express their opinions about your brand in an “organized” manner, please run through these questions first. PLEASE. For your own good:

  • Have we thoroughly “listened,” both online and offline, to the very worst things our brand’s haters are saying, even if they are being said by one crackpot that NO ONE would ever listen to?
  • When we put together and read the list of all the things we hear our brand haters saying, how much of the list would we regret all of our current audience starting to hear and believe?
  • How much of the aforementioned brand hater list would we regret our potential audience learning as they form their first impressions of our brand?
  • How much more attention will our brand haters receive (than they do currently) if we were to share with them the most visible venue our brand has ever used to get our message out to our audience?

Exploring an Alternative Social Media Strategy

Now compare the cumulative impact of all that potential downsides against what we hope to accomplish with this social media strategy . . . More people visiting our website? Extending our brand’s reach? Getting more people to talk about our brand? Free PR? Or something that’s not even that well defined? Are any of these impacts big enough that we’re willing to risk the potential downside?

If we’re not willing to risk the downside (including the exposure of all our brand’s dirty little secrets), how can we adapt this social media strategy, exploring ways to:

  • Give the public a narrow set of choices with which to generate content instead of encouraging open-ended creativity on their part?
  • Filter the user-generated content first and then giving greater exposure to only the best examples?
  • Celebrate the great content our brand fans are already sharing without being heavy-handed about it?

So how about that social media strategy tied to user-generated content?

A Smarter Social Media Strategy Approach

Running through this exercise should, ideally, put things in a lot better perspective when it comes to thinking user-generated content is the answer to a great social media strategy for your brand.

Maybe there is value to it, and your brand haters aren’t THAT bad. Or maybe you can adapt the strategy to reduce the potential downside significantly.

Either way, you owe it to your brand to do this type of strategic thinking before you give the power of your brand’s attention and its big corporate microphone to the people who most hate what your brand does and what your brand represents. – Mike Brown

 

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Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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During our Brainzooming “Outside-In Innovation” workshop at the Compete Through Service Symposium, participants applied several of our benefits-based strategic thinking exercises.

These inter-related strategic thinking exercises help explore higher-impact benefits. These longer benefit lists highlight new innovation opportunities, improve messaging, and suggest potential competitors.

One participant struggled on the strategic thinking exercise to identify competitors. Participants were trying to list three types of organizations delivering comparable benefits to their own. The three types are:

  • Expected competitors – Those on a brand’s typical competitor list
  • Surprising competitors – Dissimilar organizations that could still clearly be competitors
  • Left Field competitors – Completely non-traditional, out of category organizations that could possibly compete with yours

As an example, here’s a left field competitor someone identified. A health insurance company selected Google as a left field competitor. Google has massive amounts of information on healthcare needs. It could also introduce ways to collect more. Additionally, Google has dabbled with delivering online healthcare.

The participant stymied in pushing his thinking on left field competitors asked for help to push further.

Left-Field-Fenway

Two Other Ideas to Imagine Potential Left Field Competitors

As is often the case, one great way to push your thinking into new areas is to combo multiple strategic thinking exercises.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 1 – What’s It Like?

If you’re challenged by identifying unlikely but potentially emerging competitors, you can combo the benefits approach with the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise.

In “What’s It Like,” you list five diverse characteristics of your business situation. You use this list to explore others organizations facing the same types of generalized situations.

To imagine more unusual potential competitor possibilities, you could pick various combinations of only two of the five characteristics. What left field competitors might match just two characteristics similar to yours? The answer can still tie to what you do. But using only two common characteristics should create room for a wilder exploration of potential left field competitors.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 2 – What’s Getting in the Way?

The recent story we shared from Armada Corporate Intelligence about how the Oreo brand is staying fresh inspired another way to spot left field competitors.

Oreo identified online video games as a competitor. The reasons were consumers play with video games – and spend discretionary dollars on them – while they wait in retail lines instead of looking at (and buying from) Oreo point-of-sale displays.

Cookies and online video games competing is a pretty left field comparison, if you ask me.

You can identify comparable left field competitor comparisons. Explore how else your customers may be using the time, attention, and resources they usually would have used to buy from your brand. Even more critically, examine other brands, in or out of your market, that are inserting themselves and disrupting the traditional buying process.

Why imagine left field competitors?

If you wonder about the value of identifying left field competitors, consider the benefit to Borders Books, Tower Records, and any cell phone company of imagining Apple as a far-off competitor twenty years ago! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

 

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It seems that everyone you meet has creative job titles that include a C-level designation these days, even if it’s just a “for show” title.

You quickly learn this when a business card also lists a person’s REAL title, which is more around a manager level. So they get to say they are a C-something or other, but still get paid at an M-level.

And everybody is happy, sort of.

7 New Creative Job Titles for the C-Level

In the interests of adding to the list creative job title around the real or imagined C-suite, here are seven C-titles we’d like to throw into the mix.

business-cards

CRO – Chief Recreation Officer

In charge of video games, bean bags, and all other apparatus critical to a positive corporate activity vibe.

CVO – Chief Viral Officer

Responsible for both creating engaging social media content AND dispensing antibiotics during cold and flu season.

CPO – Chief Pet Officer

Makes sure all office environments are safe, comfortable, and accommodating for four-, two-, and no-footed friends who accompany their owners to work.

CIO – Chief Indignation Officer

The senior executive who is even more pissed off about how things are going than you are.

CMO – Chief Matrix Officer

Stands at the intersection of line and functional organizations and decides who wins in their ongoing disputes about which is more important.

CDO – Chief Disruption Officer

Responsible for undermining currently successful business lines while hoping magic happens with some wild idea someone in marketing crowdsourced.

CMO – Chief Meme Officer

The position responsible for creating inventive crowdsourced meme apps at Bill Cosby’s fan club. In case you’re interested, this position is currently open.

Which of these creative job titles do you prefer?

If you see your job responsibilities match up to any of these creative job titles, you may want to see if you can get a C-level added to your business card, even IF your pay stays the same. – Mike Brown

Mike-Brown-Gets-Brainzoomin

Learn all about what Mike Brown’s creativity, strategic thinking and innovation presentations can add to your business meeting!

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So, CAN analogies change the world?

That’s the bold claim conveyed in the headline of a Wall Street Journal article pulled from the book, “Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas.” The book is by Jon Pollack, a former Bill Clinton speechwriter (affiliate link).

Given we’ve tried to spend more time on how to generate analogies as part of strategic thinking exercises, this may be one of those books I will kick myself for not writing!

In any event, the Wall Street Journal article highlights four ‘rules” for gaining the greatest values from analogies. All of them include sound advice and intriguing examples. They are all worthwhile to include within your repertoire of strategic thinking exercises.

Apples-Orange-LO

Four Rules for Discovering Analogies

Here are Pollacks four rules for discovering analogies, in my own words:

1. Challenge all the typical analogies

The analogies you always hear may have some value because they have stood the test of time. Even so, it’s smart to

Pollack’s Example: The Wright Brothers saw an analogy between flying machines and bicycles because of their instability and the dynamics of balance.

2. Don’t settle for identifying just one analogy

When it comes to analogies, the same principle holds as with ideas: the more the better since you have the ability to try many of them and determine which are most effective.

Pollack’s Example: Darwin employed two fundamentals to hypothesize about evolution: water eroding grains of sand and agricultural breeding were applied to his views of gradual change.

3. Include a wide range of sources for your analogies

You won’t open a book and find all the ready-made analogies you’ll need to solve your problem or explore new ideas. Be prepared to take pieces from multiple, unusual sources and apply them in new ways.

Pollack’s Example: Bill Klann, a Ford mechanic, is credited with the original inspiration for the assembly line. The key analogy came from disassembling carcasses on a line at a meatpacking plant. Re reversed it to apply to assembly of cars, instead.

4. Make things as simple as possible

The strategic thinking trick is to combine multiple analogies without so over-burdening them that complexity takes over and they lose value. In this case, more shouldn’t just be less. It should also be elegantly simple.

Pollack’s Example: Steve Jobs (of course there has to be a Steve Jobs example) applied the idea Xerox idea of a digital desktop to a simple interface that could open access to computing for large audiences.

Strategic Thinking Exercises to Explore Analogies

Here is a sampling of previous Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises on finding and using analogies:

Mike Brown


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When it comes to what to blog about, a solid way to improve the returns from business blogging are to addressing typical buying process questions among your blog topics.

What can you blog about to help potential customers explore what they need to consider, know, understand, and do to make successful purchases in your product or service category?

11 Buying Process Questions for Blog Topics

Each brand will have its own list of business blog topics that align to the buying process. To get you started in exploring what to blog about, here are eleven buying process questions as a head start.

Questions-Dollars

During Initial Exploration

  • What are things I should know about the product category, but might easily overlook?
  • Why are certain product features more important than others to get the desired benefits?
  • Is there one place where I can get all the information on trends, how-tos, and other important facts for this product category?
  • When is this product category going to be the most important, beneficial, or valuable for me?

Seeking More Information

  • What are case studies that show how these products are being used in new and successful ways?
  • Is there anything important I should know about the various providers in this category?

Making Product Comparisons

  • What are important buying criteria to explore for these products?
  • Are there short cuts I can take in looking at all the products out there on the market?
  • Does anyone have a graphic that shows all the important features, performance levels, and benefits of all the choices?

Justifying the Product Recommendation or Decision

  • If I spend more on a product that promises bigger benefits, how will I justify that investment?
  • Are there any tools to evaluate the benefits of making the right product selection?

Buying Process Questions Have to Be Handled Well

You can’t simply answer these questions with a sales pitch in your blog and expect to be successful.

But if you do everything else it takes to get your content seen AND you handle these topics honestly, authentically, and in an even-handed fashion, you can help potential customers through buying decisions that ideally lead to choosing your brand. – Mike Brown

 

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

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Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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The 25th, Compete Through Service Symposium produced by the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership was fantastic! There were so many great speakers and intriguing discussions. I was honored to facilitate two workshops on Outside-in Service Innovation and using strategic thinking exercises to expand an organization’s thinking and innovation results.

Speaking of strategic thinking exercises, looking back over my Compete Through Service notes and tweets, here are important points that all seem as if they are begging to become strategic thinking exercises. We will be sending all of these to the Brainzooming R&D lab and see what develops from them!

Danny-White

Former Dallas Cowboy Quarterback, Danny White

Mary Murcott, President, The Customer Experience Institute, Dialog Direct

Culture, a provocative point of view, and simplicity drive service innovation.

To disrupt through simplicity, try to enable people to do more, re-imagine the service experience, remove friction in processes, and figure out how to save people time. (This idea has already become an organizing slide in the Outside-In Service Innovation workshop.)

Mike Gaithright, Director, Americas Customer Services, Amazon.com

The Jeff Bezos formula is obsess over customers, think long term, and innovate.

Amazon looks at opportunities as either one-way or two-way doors. A one-way door is a situation where once you make the decision and commit, you can’t return to where you were. With a two-way door opportunity, you can go right back if something is wrong. Amazon goes big, bold, and fast in two-way door situations.

With customer service, treat your customer as you would a friend. Ask yourself, “What would I do to help my friend when something goes wrong?” Then go out and do that.

Brad Haeberle, Vice President, Siemens

People will pay a lot of money for services that take pain off their lap. Or ask customers how they use your product and commercialize that – you’ll make a lot of money.

Accounting systems go against service innovation. You can depreciate product development investments, but typically can’t with a service.

Erik Peterson, Partner, A.T. Kearney

“Power is ‘easier to get, harder to use and easier to lose.’” – Erik Peterson quoting one of his associates

Derrick Hall, President and CEO, Arizona Diamondbacks

During a period of intense change, reach one person at a time. Don’t allow a single call or email to go unanswered when going through change. Even better, meet with people individually and personally to communicate and bring them into the change.

Have an arrival party for new employees. Don’t invest in going-away parties, making a big splash for someone who doesn’t want to work for you anymore.

Bridget Duffy, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Vocera Communications

The first question to hospital patients (or any customer in a daunting, stressful situation) should be, “What are you most concerned about and how we can address that?”

Develop an “Always Event” list spelling out the customer experience that always has to be in place. One question to help identify easy things to add to the Always Event list is, “What one moment in the experience most touched your heart?”

When you’re trying to tackle major customer experience issues, don’t try to solve everything at once or start with the hardest thing to fix.

Mavericks have to be willing to be burned at the stake.

Danny White, former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback

Failure is a resource. It helps you find the edge of your limitations. – Danny White quoting from the book You2

Ray Barton, Chairman of the Board, Great Clips

How do you ensure the brand experience’s consistency when it has to be carried out by other, non-employee parties? Simplicity and consistency in message and behaviors is the key. With simple messages and behaviors comes the ability for other parties to know what to do and when.

Boredom is the enemy of simplicity and focus. When an organization has figured out what works, it can’t afford to get bored and complicate what works.

Randy Wootton, VP Premier Products, salesforce.com

When you create an app or another capability to monitor how a user is using your product or service, it gives you the incredible opportunity to provide improvement recommendations to users based on broad experiences.

Stephen W. Brown, Professor Emeritus – Marketing, Arizona State University

Collaboration with customers is an incredibly strong opportunity. A brand can co-design, co-develop, co-produce, co-deliver  services with its customers.

“To be successful, you have to put your brand out there and be vulnerable.”

Mike Brown

 

Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

 

 

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